A Pro Piercer Answers All The Questions You're Way Too Nervous To Ask

by Emily Arata

Planning for a piercing can be a dubious task, mainly because everyone has an opinion.

Your work bestie complains her ear cartilage hurts every day, while a frenemy on Instagram raves about her nipple piercing.

There are also trendy piercings that seem stylish in the moment but may not last through the years. For example, the septum — the tissue between your nostrils — has come a long way, currently enjoying a near-ubiquitous place in music festival crowds and nightclubs.

It’s hard to know exactly what you want, how much to pay for it or where to find the right person for the job. Besides, the moment a piercer is about to stab through your sensitive belly button doesn’t seem the most opportune moment to ask about cleaning and proper care.

Getting a new piercing is painful. Planning for it shouldn’t have to be.

In the interest of being educated before you go under the needle, we quizzed expert piercer Cassi Lopez about her craft and the questions she wishes more customers would ask. With 12 years in the business and a thriving career at New York Adorned studio, Lopez will deliver piercing newbies from uncertainty.

1. Nobody wants a piercing that'll look awful in five years. What's your most commonly requested piercing?

Aside from basic ear piercings, I would definitely say it's a tie between septum and nipple.

2. I don't want to look like a new student in the lunch room. What research should I do beforehand?

Before going into any studio, it’s important to find one that is reputable.

Find a piercer that is knowledgeable and confident in what they do and the jewelry they use. The type of jewelry you use is just as important for the healing process as the piercer doing the work.

3. I've read horror stories about piercings gone wrong. How can I know a piercing parlor isn't shady?

If a shop is good, the work will speak for itself. This industry is very "word of mouth," so it's pretty easy to find someone who has had either a good or bad experience somewhere.

Always make sure your piercer is using single serve needles that come out of sterile packaging and get tossed into a sharps container. Jewelry should be clean and sterile, and your piercer should change their gloves often during the piercing process to prevent cross contamination.

4. Before I blow my whole paycheck, tell me straight: How much should I plan to spend on my piercing and jewelry?

At [New York Adorned], piercings cost $20-$50 depending on the location. Jewelry prices start around $40 for surgical steel and $85 for gold options.

5. It's been a few years since I sat on the piercing chair at Claire's. Should I be pierced with a gun or a needle?

A piercing gun works like a stapler. It takes a dull earring and forces it through your skin, damaging your tissue. It also doesn't leave proper space for swelling and the instrument itself cannot be sterilized. That alone should be enough to never get pierced with a gun.

Piercing needles are laser cut, so they're incredibly sharp, which allows us to guide them by hand with precision.

6. I can't handle pain, but I can handle the truth. How much does that needle really hurt?

Nipple piercings are pretty high on the pain scale, since they're such a sensitive part of the body. They tend to hurt a bit during the initial piercing process, but ease up quickly. Some cartilage piercings can be pretty sensitive too.

Basic lobe piercings are by-far the easiest!

7. I have a problem with patience. How long do I have to wait for my piercing to heal?

Honestly, aside from ear lobes, most piercings will take a long time to heal. It's very common for a piercing to take 6 months to a year for the full healing process.

Piercings heal from the outside in, so it may appear to look healed and may even feel healed, but once you remove it, the inside will still be raw.

8. Speaking of impatience, can my partner play with a nipple or genital piercing before it’s fully healed?

Healing time varies from person to person. Some genital piercings, like the VCH [vertical clitoral hood], can take 4-6 weeks. Nipples can take 6-12 months for healing.

It’s important for your own health and safety to abstain from any sexual activity until the healing process is over.

9. Real talk: Will a genital piercing hurt my partner’s teeth during oral sex?

If it’s female genital piercings, that shouldn't be an issue.

Male genital piercings, however, may pose a threat to teeth as they are generally pierced with larger gauges.

10. Can I tug or pull on my piercing without stretching it out?

Tugging and wearing heavy accessories will definitely stretch holes over time, especially in areas like the lobes and septum.

In genital areas it's important to refrain from too much tugging. Not only can those holes stretch, but they can tear just as easily. [Editor’s note: Yikes!]

11. In the interest of preventing extreme embarrassment, tell me: Will my new piercing smell or give off discharge as it heals?

Discharge is very common during the healing process. Your body secretes lymph fluid, which can dry up and form a "crust" around your piercing which is completely normal.

If the fluid coming from the piercing is green or has an odor, it could be a sign of infection.

12. I'm prone to lose jewelry. How long can I leave jewelry out of my piercing without it closing up?

People have this misconception that once the piercing is 3 months old, they can take it out with no consequences. That is not the case.

It can be years before you can leave a piercing out for a week without the hole shrinking or even closing up completely.